Thursday, 30 April 2015

Kentucky Derby- Decor & Entertainment

We are in the final days leading up to one of my all time favourite days of the year- Kentucky Derby!! The Derby is THIS Saturday and I cannot wait!! 
Last week, we talked about food & drink, so today I am sharing some Derby decor and entertainment ideas.
Image 1 // Image 2 // Image 3
Some people go all out with their Derby decor (like this blogger). I would, at least once, love to do that. I'm never organized enough to throw a big party, so I tend to keep my decor on the simple side; flowers, flowers, flowers.

If you want to go all out, think what the Derby is about; horses, Kentucky, the South. Lots of colours, lots of flowers and lots of horse racing paraphernalia. There are so many ideas on Pinterest. You can check out my Kentucky Derby Pinterest Board for more ideas.

Remember, the Derby is also referred to as 'Run for the Roses' so any decor piece that you can incorporate roses into, is a good idea. 

For my parties, I stick to flowers and not much else for decor. I basically just put vases of flowers around the room. Red Roses, Hydrangeas and Lilies are personal favourites. 

As for entertainment...

NBC Sports does a great coverage leading up to the race. It can be tedious to watch all of the coverage, but I usually have it on in the background. If you prefer music, you can find a pretty good playlist here.

If you are going for a BBQ/tailgating vibe, corn hole, slip and slide, and horseshoes are a lot of fun. 

What my family does, is each guest is asked to contribute $2 to the pot when they arrive and they get to pull a number out of a hat. The number they have, is their horse (for example, if I pull #4, my horse is the horse in the 4th post of the race). Whoever has the winning horse, gets the pot. It's just a fun little thing we do. 

Regardless of what you pick as the 'entertainment', the race, the most exciting two minutes in sports, is the central point of your party. So make sure you and your guests watch it!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Take A Chance And Say Hello

Happy Wednesday! The past week has been...challenging. I've been hit with three different pieces of frustrating news in less than a week. I will be honest, it's tough. I'm trying to put everything aside, not get upset, have faith, move on. 

When that fails, I turn to distraction, like this song:

Say Hello by Luke McMaster

I had the opportunity to see Luke McMaster perform in March. He was opening for David Myles (who I Love) at Brock University. I believe this is the song he used to open his set. This song makes me want to dance and it just makes me feel happy.

Hope everyone is having a great week!!

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Hey, It's Ok

Airing My Dirty Laundry

That NYR won their first round of the playoffs!! #ChangeTheEnding.

To be indifferent to the whole Bruce Jenner thing. How do we live in a society where gender- and race, sexuality, etc- are issues?

That I need to win the lottery. Desperately.

To want things to work out. For once. Let this be it.

That, even though I haven't watched Grey's in year's, to be shocked that Derek Sheppard died. What is Meredith going to do? Actually, not really that interested.

This week's quote:

Monday, 27 April 2015

The Young Professional- Cover Letter

I know so many people who dread writing cover letters. I get it...if you don't write a decent cover letter, the hiring manager might not even bother to look at your resume. Your resume, as discussed last week, is a snap shot of who you are professionally. Your cover letter is an introduction to you, it's the first impression.
As with everything, there so many idea about what makes or breaks a cover letter. I'm going to share what has worked for me and what I look for in cover letters. 

  • Contact information- Just like my resume, I have a header that includes my full name, address, phone number, email and LinkedIn profile. Make it easy for them to contact you.
  • Address the letter- Sometimes job postings will say who to submit your resume too (example, Jane Doe, Company Owner), so this is who your cover letter should be addressed too. Other times, they won't include a name but will say something like 'submit resume to  In this case, address your letter to 'Media Relations Manager'. As a last resort, 'Human Resource Manager' will work. 
  • Opening Paragraph- I always include the phrase 'from my attached resume' somewhere in the opening paragraph. I also mention my education and that I have 'several years experience' in whatever type of job I'm applying for. For example, if I'm applying for an event job, I say 'I have several years experience in managing events'.
  • Current/Most Recent Employment- Next I mention my most recent employment and briefly mention what I was responsible for. For example, I say what type of events I managed (educational conferences, Annual General Meetings, fundraising campaigns). Keep this brief, as your responsibilities should be extensively listed on your resume. There is no need to repeat them here.
  • Customize- With the exception of the 'Qualification' section of my resume, I do not customize my resume to the job I'm applying for. Instead, I do that in my cover letter. For example, if the job talks about making presentations in the community- which is something I have done but not a regular part of my job- in my cover letter, I would talk about how I made presentations about the company to Group A, B & C, with audiences ranging from 20-100 people.
  • Highlight- Building on the point above, aim to highlight 3-5 qualifications that make you right for the job. Try and provide solid examples of what you have done based on what they are looking for. For example, I was applying for a job with a municipality, and while I have never worked for one, I have years of volunteering with them. I mention specifics (where, what, how long) of this volunteer work in my cover letter (and have it listed on my resume). Also, use keywords from the job description.
  • Standout- Last year, I was nominated for several Chamber Awards, including Employee of the Year. I always mention this in my cover letter. I mean, how many Employee of the Year nominees are applying for this position? Not many. Mention something, anything, that will make you standout from others.
  • Additional Information- Sometimes job postings will say to provide specific information, such as salary expectations. Your cover letter is a good place to provide that information. A cover letter is also a good place to mention if you are able to relocate, if you are applying for a position outside your geographical location.
  • Wrap It Up- I always close with the same format; mention the job you are applying for and the company. I also provide a 'call to action', which is 'I look forward to hearing from you and discussion my experience and qualifications further.'
  • Proof Read- This isn't part of the template, but is something you should do. Check your spelling and grammar. Also double check who the letter is addressed too (don't address it Jane Doe, when it should be Joe Smith) and that the position and company stated in your letter are correct.
Remember, your cover letter is an introduction to you, it's your first impression. Tell a little bit about yourself. Showcase what makes you unique and perfect for the position.

Next week, we'll be talking about interviews.

Looking for more on this series? Checkout The Young Professionals tag.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Sunday Reading & Coffee

I always felt reading the Sunday newspaper and drinking coffee was a very grown up thing to do and something I should  be doing, so I did. While I no longer have a newspaper subscription, I still feel that a great Sunday includes coffee and reading.

With this concept, I decided each week- on Sunday- to share some of my favourite articles from the past week. So grab a cup of coffee (or your beverage of choice) and enjoy!

As already stated this week, I LOVE the Kentucky Derby, and even learned a few things reading 15 Facts You Didn't Know About The Kentucky Derby

Another thing I love, hockey. And hockey players. I mean, how can you not? 24 Reasons Why Hockey Players Are Actually Big, Cuddly Sweethearts.

Something else I love? Dance. There is so much truth in this article, 7 Valuable Life Lessons You Learn From Being A Dancer.

Knowing a guy in this band, and thinking this was a cute read, I just had to share River Town Saints present 10 Things To Remember To Bring On Tour.

Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Weekly Wrap Up

A blog friend of mine, years ago, had a Saturday link up called 'Weekly What'. She eventually cut back on her blogging and the link up came to an end, but I kept doing it...I liked the concept; basically you put all of your Monday-Friday posts in one post on Saturday. It's essentially a summary of the past week on your blog. 

I thought for 2015, I would bring the concept back...

TUESDAY: I took a post.

FRIDAY: I finished the week by updating how I'm doing with New Year's Resolution.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Friendly Resolution- April

I'm not big on New Year Resolution, because let's be honest, most of us rarely stick to them. This year, I decided that every month, I would make the point to connect with two friends that I haven't seen recently (at least 3 months).

Earlier this month, I found myself transitioning into a new career and had some down time between jobs. When you're not working during the day, it's so much easier to meet up with people, as the past month has shown:

C- A childhood friend that I haven't seen since November, even though we live less than two hours away from each other and both spend time in our hometown. She and I met for breakfast in the city that was half way between us. We found a fantastic little diner and had a great visit!

N- One of my summer students from last year! I was so busy with work and she was so busy with school that I haven't seen her since her last day of work at the end of August. We were able to meet for lunch. It was so, so, so great to see her and catch up. She has the most amazing personality, so much energy and so positive.

K- One of my sorority sisters. I do see her once or twice a month, but it's always sorority related. She and I (and her daughter) went out for lunch. It was nice to talk to her about things and get her input. I appreciate her words of wisdom. And she said something that was so nice to hear; she's admires how if I want something, I just do it...I put together a plan and make it happen. I had never thought that about myself.

Sorority Sisters- I had cancelled a lot of my plans with them recently, so I hadn't seen them in awhile. We had plans to go play Bingo and I kept going back and forth as to whether or not I was going to go, right up until 5 minutes before I had to leave. It was so nice to see them, spend time with them and laugh. Not win at Bingo was ok. 

R- A friend since high school, who I have seen while out doing errands, but we haven't been able to get our schedules to match up until this week. We went out for lunch at this great Hawaiian place. She is super interesting and I always learn something new from her!

E- I know her through Brock Alumni, and while I have spoken to her on the phone and via email and text on a very regular basis, I haven't seen her since Homecoming in September! We met for coffee and chatted about a few things, including her house hunting!! 

My mom and sister- while they are not technically had been about a year since the 3 of us had gone out for lunch. Always nice to spend time with them. Plus, my sister and I also spent some time together shopping.

I connected with a ton of people! But that's what happens when you're not working and have all the time in the world. I am back to work, but this job will allow me to have more free hopefully I can continue to with my goal is two friends a month- which I think is realistic.

I'm four months in, which is not a lot, but I've been really great at sticking to this resolution. I have high hopes for the rest of the year!

January // February // March

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Kentucky Derby- Food & Drink

I LOVE the Kentucky Derby...not as much as I love hockey (GO RANGERS!!)...but it's a close second. You don't actually have to be at Churchill Downs to enjoy the can host your own Kentucky Derby Viewing Party!!
Every great party has great food and drink. When it comes to the Kentucky Derby, Mint Juleps are the drink of choice. You can find various recipes for this drink, but I had a wonderful woman (Pat, who stays in the same Florida condo complex as my grandmother) from Kentucky share her recipe with me. The key is that she makes her own syrup.
You will need:
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Ice
  • Bourbon
To make:
  • Boil sugar and water for five minutes
  • Cool and add mint leaves
  • Cover and refrigerate overnight
  • Pour 2oz of Bourbon over ice 
  • Add 1oz of mint syrup to glass
  • Stir
  • Garnish with mint, if desired
  • I usually add 6 or 7 mint leaves to my syrup mix
  • While you can use any kind of Bourbon, it's best to use Kentucky Bourbon
  • If you don't have time to make your own syrup, you can buy simple syrup or mint julep flavouring
An alternative drink would be sweetened ice tea- made from real tea. I like to add some of the mint syrup to ice tea.
Image 1 //  Image 2 // Image 3
What about food?
Stick to the basics and think finger foods; cold seafood, tea sandwiches, salads and dips. Or you can do a southern BBQ; ribs, corn on the cob, biscuits. Whether you go for something a bit fancier or more casual, chocolate bourbon pecan pie makes a great dessert option.
In my family, we always serve Lobster Coquille at our Derby Party. Baked brie (or cheese platter), fruit salad and shrimp anything are also popular options.

There are so many options when it comes to Derby food and even drinks- if Mint Juleps are not your thing. I'm sure by searching Google or Pinterest, you'll find tons of ideas. 
Next week I'll be sharing decor and entertainment ideas!

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Talk Derby To Me

One of my favourite days of the year is Kentucky Derby!! Now, I have never actually been to the Kentucky Derby, I have always watched it on tv and I come from a horse racing family; family members have owned race horses, worked for tracks and spent many days watching races. 

Back to the Kentucky Derby...considered to be the most exciting two minutes in sports, 2015 will mark the 141st year that this event has taken place. The Derby always takes place on the first Saturday of May, this year's race will be on May 2- which is 10 days away!!

Today, I thought I would share some Kentucky Derby basics.
  • Taking place at Churchill Downs, one of the most famous racetracks, the race is 1 1/4 mile long and takes roughly two minutes to complete.
  • Also known as 'The Run for the Roses' because the winner is draped in hundreds of roses that are sewn together to create a blanket. 
  • The Governor of Kentucky awards both the roses and the trophy to the winner.
  • This  race is the first 'jewel' in the 'triple crown' of horse racing (followed by the Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes).
  • Being well over 100 years old, there are a number of traditions associated with this event; mint juleps (the official drink) and the playing of 'My Old Kentucky Home' as the horses go to post are crowd (and personal) favourites.
  • 'Millionaire's Row' is a term you will hear repeatedly on Derby day. This would be the incredibly expensive box seats.
  • General admission is available for the infield, which ends up being a huge party, since it's difficult to see the actual race from this area. 
  • 2015 horses (and information about them) can be found here- whether you pick your winner based on stats, name or post, there is some useful information there.

Tomorrow and next week, I will be sharing some ideas for hosting your own Kentucky Derby Party.. If you can't make it to Kentucky for the Derby, the next best thing is to host a Derby Party!!

Monday, 20 April 2015

The Young Professional- Resume

Another Monday, another start to a (hopefully) great week and another edition of The Young Professional! So, last week we talked about job searching and today we are talking about resume writing. I will be sharing how I set up my resume and what I look for in the resume of others. 

We all know that a resume is essentially a list of your experiences and qualifications; your resume is a a snapshot of who you are as a professional.
What should you include on your resume?
  • Contact information- On the top of my resume (and top of my cover letter) I include my contact information. This includes my first and last name, street address, phone number, email and my LinkedIn profile. Make it easy for the person doing the hiring to contact you.
  • Cover Letter- Next weeks post will be dedicated to cover letters, so I'm not going to go into details in this post, but it's always a good idea to include a cover letter with your resume.
  • Qualifications- Highlight why you're qualified for the job. This are general qualifications, such as 'strong written and oral communications skills' or 'proven success rate with special events'. Not sure what to include? Look at the job description. For example, if the job description lists 'fast paced environment' your qualification can be 'comfortable working in fast paced environments and under tight deadlines.' This is a great place to customize your resume to the position. I also include the social media outlets I'm experienced using and any certifications I have, for example, First Aid.
  • Education- Pretty self explanatory...included where you went to school, what your major was and your graduation year.
  • Work History- This should be listed in order, with the most recent on the top. Include the name of the company, your title and how long you worked there. Underneath, list what you did. For example, at my last job, I was an Event & Fundraising Coordinator, so I listed things like 'oversaw 14 major events a year', 'responsible for maintaining community partnerships' and 'build and maintain event budgets'. 
  • Volunteer and Work Related Experience- This is the place to list your volunteer work and related experiences that are not quite 'work history' but more than 'volunteer experience'. An example of this would be pro bono work. I cannot stress enough how important it is to list your volunteer experience. I have actually not hired someone-who was an ideal candidate- because she didn't have any volunteer experience. Employers want to see people who are involved in their community and who have things going on outside of work. Volunteer experience shows time management, leadership and it's a good way to explain gaps in employment. Volunteering IS working, it does count for something.
  • References- I include this section on my resume and then underneath it put 'available upon request' unless the job posting says to apply with references, then I include them.

Now that you have the content of your resume, what about the layout?
  • Length- try and keep your resume 2-3 pages.
  • Point form- people do not have time to read blocks of text, and blocks of text can be hard to read; people will skim and have a good chance of skipping over key points of your resume. Keep it to the point and concise. Remember, this is a snapshot. 
  • Proof read- This is so important. Make sure words are spelled correctly and that your grammar is correct (example, consistently using past tense). I have passed on interviewing people because of spelling mistakes.
  • Name & Contact info- Make sure you include your contact info in an easy to find spot, like the header on the first page. It's also a good idea to include your name at the top of any subsequent pages; if pages get separated, they know which ones belong with your resume.
  • Font- make sure it's easy to read. Arial, Helvetica and Verdana are good choices. For my name and contact info, I use a 'fancier' font, like Lucinda Handwriting to make it stand out. Since it's just a small piece of text, it's not too hard to read.
  • Colour/Uniqueness- You want to be professional, but you also want to stand out and make your resume memorable. To make my resume unique, instead of using a standard bullet point, I use a red star. A pop of colour is refreshing, without being overpowering, and it makes your resume stand out while still being professional. 
There are so many theories and ideas as to what makes a resume a good resume. I format my resume the same way every time and 9 times out of 10, I get a call for an interview. Every employer will look for different things in a resume. Just remember, your resume is a snapshot of you...keep this in mind when putting together your resume and you're sure to have a great one!

Next Monday...Cover letters.

Looking for more on this series? Checkout The Young Professional Tag.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Sunday Reading & Coffee

I always felt reading the Sunday newspaper and drinking coffee was a very grown up thing to do and something I should  be doing, so I did. While I no longer have a newspaper subscription, I still feel that a great Sunday includes coffee and reading.

With this concept, I decided each week- on Sunday- to share some of my favourite articles from the past week. So grab a cup of coffee (or your beverage of choice) and enjoy!

One of my favourite stories of the week (partly because I wished this happened more often) was Gravity Payments CEO takes 90% pay cut to give workers huge raise.

My other favourite piece I cam across this week, because it was funny, 21 Times Canadians Were EASY TARGETS on Tumblr.

I honestly believe that experiences are so much better than things and this article, The Science Of Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things, supports that outlook.

Something new I learned this week, and I think is kinda of cool, The Earth Has An Eerie Hum, And Now We Know What's Causing It.

Hope everyone has a great Sunday!!

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Weekly Wrap Up

A blog friend of mine, years ago, had a Saturday link up called 'Weekly What'. She eventually cut back on her blogging and the link up came to an end, but I kept doing it...I liked the concept; basically you put all of your Monday-Friday posts in one post on Saturday. It's essentially a summary of the past week on your blog. 

I thought for 2015, I would bring the concept back...

MONDAY: I started the week with my blog series, The Young Professional, and talking about job searching

TUESDAY: I linked up with Amber for Hey, It's Ok!.

WEDNESDAY: I reviewed a book, Moranthology.

FRIDAY: I finished the week with five of my favourite things..

Friday, 17 April 2015

Fave Five: Edition 1

 1. Vacation Spot: 
2. Go to Cocktail

Amaretto Sour
3. Favourite Film
Empire Records
4. Beside Read
Prep: A Novel

5. Gourmet Fix
Thai food

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Baby Shower Part 6- A Special Keepsake

About a year and a half ago, I hosted a 'Bedtime Stories' Baby Shower for a dear friend of mine. Even though the actual baby shower was so long ago, I still want to share details of the event with everyone. This is a timeless, gender neutral and fun theme.

Today I'm sharing a special keepsake that was made for the baby.

But first...

How pretty is this quilt?! We oversaw a quilt program, where volunteers would make these quilts for our clients. Each piece of fabric has a different texture, making it a sensory piece. Mom-to-be loved these quilt squares. When the finished quilt came back, I took it and saved it to give to her at her shower.

I used the quilt to 'wrap' the keepsake in. So, what was this special keepsake?

Staff and volunteers were given a letter of the alphabet and tasked with creating a picture that represented that letter. For example, I had the letter 'N' so I drew (ok...traced) a Nurse. All the pages were then assembled to create an alphabet book for the baby. As with everything related to this shower, the book fit with the theme.

The book even included a picture drawn by mom. I had her and another co-worker do the 'Pig Personality Test', where you draw a pig (it's a real it) and I kept her drawing of the pig to include in the book. Mom was so surprised and touched to receive this book and that she was-unknowingly- part of the project too.

It was a little bit of a challenge to get everyone to draw/trace their pictures prior to the shower, but so worth it. I had the original pages colour copied and used the copies for the book, which was bound at Staples (a lot of office supple stores can do this).

What did I do with the originals? I kept them so that they could be copied in the future and made into books for others. 3 people on staff have received copies of this special book for their little ones.

This is the final post for the Bedtime Stories Baby Shower. It's been fun sharing different aspects of this event with everyone.

Over the next 2 weeks, I will be doing a four part series on one of my favourite events of the year!

Looking for more on the Bedtime Stories Baby Shower Series?
Theme & Invite
Food & Drink
Games (& Prizes)
Book & Gift Ideas

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Book Club: Moranthology


Book: Moranthology
Author: Caitlin Moran
Amazon Summary: 
The follow-up to Caitlin Moran's breakout hit,How to Be a Woman-A hilarious collection of award-winning columns, available to American readers for the first time ever.

Possibly the only drawback to the bestselling How to Be a Woman was that its author, Caitlin Moran, was limited to pretty much one subject: being a woman.Moranthology is proof that Caitlin can actually be "quite chatty" about many other things, including cultural, social, and political issues that are usually the province of learned professors or hot-shot wonks-and not of a woman who once, as an experiment, put a wasp in a jar and got it stoned. Caitlin ruminates on-and sometimes interviews-subjects as varied as caffeine, Keith Richards,Ghostbusters, Twitter, transsexuals, the welfare state, the royal wedding, Lady Gaga, and her own mortality, to name just a few. With her unique voice, Caitlin brings insight and humor to everything she writes.
What I have to say: 
I had heard a lot about Caitlin Moran and I was interested to read this book and see what all the hype was about. I get it. She's a great storyteller! This books is a collection of essays, of things that Caitlin has experienced. It was engaging and entertaining.

It took me about a year to read this book. Because it was a collection of essays, once you are finished an essay you can walk away from the book and pick it up at a later time- no need to remember what you last read, because you were starting a whole new story. I would read this book while waiting; waiting for car repairs, waiting to meet someone for lunch, waiting for... which is why it took me so long to read. 

Final verdict: This was a good book, entertaining with laughable moments. Collections of essays do not appeal to everyone, but if they appeal to you, I highly recommend this book!